Fight against ISIS now in new phase: Obama
WASHINGTON: The deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq marks a “new phase” in the campaign against ISIS jihadists, US President Barack Obama said on Sunday.
“Phase one was getting an Iraqi government that was inclusive and credible — and we now have done that,” Obama told CBS News. “Rather than just try to halt ISIS’ momentum, we’re now in a position to start going on some offence,” the president added.
Obama stressed that the US forces would not engage in combat, and would focus on training Iraqi recruits and some of the Sunni tribes that are fighting the ISIS group.
“We will provide them close air support once they are prepared to start going on the offence against ISIS,” Obama told CBS’ Face the Nation programme. “But what we will not be doing is having our troops do the fighting.” When asked if any more US forces will be sent to Iraq in the future, Obama said, “I’m never going to say never,” but said the current plan was to see fewer US troops over time.
Obama on Friday announced that the US would send up to 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to aid the Baghdad government and Kurdish forces fighting the ISIS group, doubling the number of US troops in the country.
US air strikes on Saturday destroyed an ISIS convoy near the Iraqi city of Mosul, but US officials said it was unclear whether the group’s top commander, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been in any of the 10 targeted vehicles.
The decision to send more troops came five months after ISIS seized much of northern Iraq. The militant group has also seized territory in Syria, where the US is leading air strikes targeting the militants. Obama’s 2012 withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq has been sharply criticized by some Republicans, including US senator John McCain.